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Barlaam and Ioasaph   By: (676?-749)

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Barlaam and Ioasaph, a mesmerizing tale penned by Saint John of Damascus, takes readers on an enchanting journey of self-discovery and spiritual enlightenment. Set against the backdrop of a fictional kingdom in India, the narrative delves into the transformative journey of the young prince Ioasaph—an allegorical representation of the Buddha—as he navigates the realms of existence and the pursuit of ultimate truth.

The story begins with Ioasaph's father, King Abenner, striving to shield his son from the suffering and mundanity of life, isolating him within the confines of his luxurious palace. However, destiny intervenes as an ascetic, Barlaam, emerges to guide Ioasaph on a path to enlightenment. Barlaam, an embodiment of the Christian faith, seeks to liberate Ioasaph's soul from the perpetual cycle of birth and death.

Saint John of Damascus intricately weaves together moral teachings from both Buddhism and Christianity, effortlessly blending Eastern and Western philosophies into a captivating narrative. Through a series of captivating dialogues and encounters, Barlaam progressively educates Ioasaph on the transient nature of earthly possessions, illuminating the path to true happiness lying beyond the material world.

As he accompanies Barlaam on his spiritual journey, Ioasaph encounters numerous characters, each representing a different school of thought. These interlocutors engage in profound philosophical debates, each offering their unique perspective on life's purpose and the nature of existence. The richness of these philosophical exchanges elevates the story beyond mere allegory, provoking deeper reflections and introspection.

What sets Barlaam and Ioasaph apart is the exceptional characterization and depth of spiritual transformation portrayed by Ioasaph himself. As he progresses on his spiritual quest, Ioasaph undergoes a journey of self-discovery, navigating through the trials and tribulations of the human condition. His evolution from a sheltered and naive prince to a wise being seeking higher truths is nothing short of inspiring.

Saint John of Damascus masterfully underscores the universality of spiritual enlightenment, emphasizing that the pursuit of truth transcends cultural boundaries. The blending of Buddhist and Christian concepts not only promotes tolerance and understanding between different faiths but also highlights the shared essence of humanity's quest for meaning.

In conclusion, Barlaam and Ioasaph is a remarkable work of allegory and spiritual insight. Saint John of Damascus's skillful storytelling and profound philosophical reflections make this ancient text a timeless gem for readers of all backgrounds and beliefs. The transformative journey of Ioasaph resonates deeply, encouraging readers to introspect their own lives and strive for higher truths beyond the material world.

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Barlaam and Ioasaph


St. John Damascene (?)

("St. John of Damascus")

c. 676 749 A.D.

It is not known where or when this story was written, but it is believed to have been translated into Greek (possibly from a Georgian original) sometime in the 11th Century A.D. Although the ultimate author is usually referred to as "John the Monk", it has been traditionally ascribed to St. John of Damascus.

The text of this edition is based on that published as ST. JOHN DAMASCENE: BARLAAM AND IOASAPH (Trans: G.R. Woodward and H. Mattingly; Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1914). This text is in the PUBLIC DOMAIN in he United States.

This electronic edition was edited, proofed, and prepared by Douglas B. Killings (DeTroyes@EnterAct.COM), November, 1996.

PREPARER'S NOTE: Readers of this work will note some startling similarities between the story of Ioasaph and the traditional Tale of Buddha. The work seems to be a retelling of the Buddha Legend from within a Christian context, with the singular difference that the "Buddha" in this tale reaches enlightenment through the love of Jesus Christ.

The popularity of the Greek version of this story is attested to by the number of translations made of it throughout the Christian world, including versions in Latin, Old Slavonic, Armenian, Christian Arabic, English, Ethiopic, and French... Continue reading book >>

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